Much like other genres, Brahms' first foray into the string quartet literature was marked by numerous stops and starts along the way and constant revisions. The result for the first completed quartet, Op. 51 in C minor, is a mature, emotionally poignant, and intense composition. Decades later, Béla Bartók's Fifth Quartet took little more than a month to complete. Highly influenced by his research into various folk idioms, the quartet also features Bartók's often-used arch form across its five-movement structure. Performing these two masterworks on its debut album is the Aeolus Quartet, the graduate quartet-in-residence at the University of Texas at Austin at the time of recording. For a young ensemble, Aeolus already has a lot to offer. Its performance of the Brahms is highly energetic and passionate, well in-tune, and technically refined. So, too, is the Bartók, with nicely matched articulation and careful control of dynamics. Sometimes the players' enthusiasm gets the better of them, causing a forced, strained sound at the peak of their dynamic level. The Bartók could benefit from a bit more crispness and bite in its attack. Apart from these minor detractors, the Aeolus Quartet puts forth a nice first offering and proves to be an ensemble to watch.
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 51|
|String Quartet No. 5, Sz. 102|